Sessions 1-10
  Sessions 11-18


General Course Information

German 165 A
T TH 1:15-2:45
Bldg. 260-007

Bldg. 260-204, Phone: 723-0413
Office Hours: TH 2:45-3:45

Course Description

The aim of this class is to experience and learn about a city space. Our point of departure is one of the most historically rich, multilayered, and contradictory modern cities in Europe: Berlin. Because conventional historical chronologies and representations inevitably simplify or even neglect its multilayered complexity, this class attempts to open new perspectives for experiencing the city space and rethinking its history. We want to create new tools for deciphering the faces of its inhabitants and the facades of its buildings, for perceiving its times, rhythms, sights and sounds.

Why Berlin? Since German feudal lords founded Berlin in 1230 on the western bank of the Spree river, the city has been the focus of intense political, economic, and cultural interest. Indeed, throughout the centuries, Berlin figures prominently in decisive shifts in the course of German and European history: the city was a significant member of the Hanseatic League; after 1631, it saw the rise of Swedish power; under the leadership of Frederick William, the Great elector of Brandenburg, Berlin was transformed into a center of commercial, financial, and industrial influence in the German cultural sphere. As the capital of Prussia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Berlin evolved into a major center of political power in Europe. In small salons throughout the city, intellectuals and authors from diverse social and religious backgrounds met to discuss the ideas of the French Revolution and German Idealism.

It was Berlin, which in 1871 became the first capital of a united Germany. At the turn of the twentieth century, many artists, writers, and musicians wandered through its streets, galleries, theatres, and cafes, turning the city into a focal point for such significant cultural movements as Expressionism and Dadaism. During the Weimar Republic, Berlin was both a vibrant cultural hub and the scene of harsh political conflicts. The fire that damaged the Reichstag's building seriously in February 1933 marked the city's transformation into a site of aggression, persecution, and war. And, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, it was the Berlin blockade, alongside the Berlin Wall, which became metaphors for the fight against totalitarianism. The call for social and political change which swept Germany's streets in the late 1960s owed much of its vigor to the spirit of Berlin's Commune I and the student riots outside the city malls. Today, Berlin is the capital of a reunified Germany, and, due to its historical significance and geopolitical location between Moscow in the East and Paris and London in the West, the city has become a new metaphor for the process of European integration.


  1. Students are expected to attend class regularly and to come well prepared, i.e., not only having read or looked over assignments, but also with prepared questions, comments and/or other contributions to the ongoing discussion (40% of Final Grade).

  2. One presentation of approximately 10 minutes (25% of Final Grade).

  3. Final paper: 12-15 pages (35% of Final Grade).

  4. The class reader should be purchased in the bookstore along with the following books:
    • David Clay Large, Berlin.
    • Alfred Döblin, Berlin. Alexanderplatz.